By The Chronicle’s Editorial Board
(This article was featured in our print issue, which was published on Nov. 10, 2012.)
President Obama’s historic re-election this year is disappointing. Disappointing because America has chosen another four years of debt, deficits, and decline. Disappointing because the gap between Obama’s rhetoric and his actions grows larger every year. And most of all, disappointing because Obama’s policies will lead to another four years of lackluster growth in a recession that has been longer than any since the Great Depression.
Obama is fundamentally a good man, and a charismatic leader. But good people can be wrong, which is what Obama is on most issues – particularly regarding the economy. The recession we have just exited went on for far too too long. Ronald Reagan’s pragmatic monetary and fiscal policies in the early 1980s quickly led to renewed growth rates, topping 7% per year and driving unemployment below 6% by 1987.
But Obamanomics have largely failed. Though unemployment is down, it is still basically at 8% – a figure which does not include the massive amount of workers who have left searching for work altogether. Labor participation rates are at unprecedented lows, and the middle class remains squeezed by rising health and college costs, along with slews of regulations which harm small and medium businesses across the country. Many economists now speak of the American unemployment rate remaining “structurally” high, as it has been for decades in many European countries.
Obama’s healthcare reform, passed in a time when he should have focused on improving the economy, will only make it harder for America to prosper. Instead of implementing a free-market-based reform of an admittedly inefficient national health care system, Obamacare’s thousands of pages of legislation will make it harder for businesses of all sizes to hire and keep workers. And its impact on America’s long-term fiscal health will be disastrous.
In a historical and international context, it is true that Obama’s economic policies are not wholly hard-left or “Socialist.” He wisely kept the Bush era tax rates, and has only focused on raising taxes on the relatively few who make over $250,000 a year.
But most change is incremental, and in the long run, Obama is moving America closer to Europe’s failed statist model. Images of Athens paralyzed by riots, fires, and strikes haunt America’s ever-increasing national debt, which increased by trillions under Obama.
This election has ensured that the US’ unique system of wealth creation is more threatened than ever by big government. Yet now is not the time for partisan bickering or identity politics.
Americans must work together for a better tomorrow, as always. But it would have been easier with a president whose policies supported America’s once-common traditions of economic liberty and thrift.